Sports Illustrated's scathing report on OSU football will be released any day now, and the Cowboy brass can go about the business of figuring out what's true and what's not.
Chances are high that it's not all true and it's not all false. Somewhere in the middle is most likely.
But even the best-case scenario, that it's all a bunch of lies and innuendo, would not be a satisfying result for the university. And not just because of the stain on OSU's reputation.
While OSU doesn't know the exact details of who said what, OSU knows this. Sports Illustrated told Cowboy officials that it talked to 60 former players and 30 former coaches/staff personnel. And some of them, perhaps most of them, painted an unflattering picture of O-State football.
“This goes well beyond the NCAA rules and any consequences,” OSU athletic director Mike Holder said. “You've got to take a hard look at yourself in the mirror.”
Holder says he tells his employees on a regular basis, “Our only job is to serve our student-athletes. That's what we're here for. We're here to make their dreams come true.
“There's been a breakdown there. We need to do a better job. If nothing else, if none of it's true, and yet there are really, really hard feelings, you gotta feel bad about yourself. That's the way I feel about it.”
The shock nature of the allegations is high. Paying players in one form or another. A drug culture. Sex between recruits on visits and the hostesses showing them around campus. Academic fraud, which to my mind and no doubt Holder's is the most egregious of the allegations. A university is not one inch better than its academic integrity.
But truth is, the NCAA-sanction element of this story is not all that important. If the bulk of the accusations are true, potential fallout from the NCAA is not vast, considering Sports Illustrated estimated 85 percent of its scandalous findings occurred between 2001 and 2007.
Heck, in that regard, this report is an indictment of Les Miles, who jumped to LSU after the 2004 season, more so than OSU. Mike Gundy and Co. can accurately claim, using Sports Illustrated as the source, that the Cowboys have cleaned up the culture.
But that still leaves us with those 60 former players and ever how many of them look back on their OSU days with disdain.
This is no time to trash whistle-blowers. This is time to analyze an organization that by its own admission exists to serve student-athletes and yet failed them on some level.
Not that OSU hasn't tried. The Sports Illustrated report apparently paints the university as a place that treated athletes as commodities. If that's true, I don't think it was purposeful.
Yes, OSU has had some players with serious drug problems. Every football program in America faces that dilemma.
A Cowboy coach Saturday told The Oklahoman about a notable player from the mid-2000s who was sent to drug rehab on the school's dime but just couldn't or wouldn't shake the addiction.
I don't believe Holder's administration, or Harry Birdwell's before him or Terry Don Phillips' before that, were callous toward athletes as people.
But somewhere along the road, apparently years ago, the Cowboys got off track. By SI's own information, OSU is doing better. But that's no reason to celebrate. It's a reason to lament, and why this is a sad Stillwater story, no matter what turns out true.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.